If you are a cannabis connoisseur who regularly visits our Mary Jane’s House of Grass dispensary, then you’ve probably heard about the newest pro cannabis bill that was introduced to the Senate on March 30. But, whether you’re hearing about “Path to Marijuana Reform” for the first time, or you just really want it to pass, here’s what you need to know.
Today, already 95% of Americans have some form of access to legal marijuana and more than 20% live in states that legally allow adults to consume cannabis. This group of three bills, introduced by Oregon politicians Senator Ron Wyden and Congressman Earl Blumenauer, aims to grant legal access to all Americans in cannabis approved states, introduce responsible federal regulation, and legitimize and protect marijuana businesses throughout the U.S.
Unfortunately, since cannabis is illegal under federal laws, consumers in compliance with legal state laws can still be arrested and charged with a federal crime; they can even face jail time.
Similarly, cannabis retailers, researchers, healthcare providers, producers, and more, who are adhering to their local state laws may face jail time, financial penalties, and asset forfeiture. Additionally, they also have a more difficult time (than federally approved businesses) receiving bank loans, accessing bank accounts, renting property, conducting scientific testing, and the challenges don’t stop there.
In spite of these current provocations, the cannabis industry is on the rise. It’s expected to provide 300,000 jobs by 2020 and grow to a $24 billion business by 2025, far surpassing 2016 totals of $7.2 billion. This, coupled with the dramatic benefits of cannabis and low-risks, especially when compared to substances like alcohol, is the driving force for the reformation.
So, here’s what’s currently included in the plan. The “Path to Marijuana Reform”, as outlined by Wyden and Blumenauer, is comprised of three separate bills introduced as a package. This is what they entail:
Small Business Tax Equity Act
This bill is focused to benefit the small businesses, like your local Mary Jane’s House of Grass dispensary. It would repeal the current tax penalties aimed directly at state-legal businesses that are forced to operate against direct approval by the federal government. It will also allow these owners to claim deductions and tax credits that are afforded to all other small businesses.
Responsibility Addressing the Marijuana Policy Gap Act
For consumers and businesses alike, this potential law would remove any federal criminal penalties, including jail time, legally upholding the rights of citizens adhering to their respective state cannabis laws.
It would also remove current barriers faced by cannabis business owners. Under this law, they could just as easily open a bank account and secure advertising as any other legal business.
Additionally, it would ensure that those who consume marijuana are granted the same access to federal programs such as federal housing and student loans. It would also not deport or deny U.S. entry to legal immigrants who are found to consume cannabis and are complying with their state laws.
This potential law would also remove the burden of veterans legally acquiring medical marijuana in states where it is legal, and would similarly protect pro cannabis Native American tribes under both state and federal law.
Marijuana Revenue and Regulation Act
This particular bill is focused on federal regulation. According to the proposal, “It would impose an excise tax on marijuana products similar to current federal excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco.” The rate would top out at 25% of the sale.
Additionally, it would be required for producers, importers, and wholesalers to receive permits from the Department of Treasury, similar to the permits required by each state.
As suspected, the bill suggests regulating marijuana in a similar manner to alcohol, which is already common practice (if not stricter) in states where medicinal and recreational marijuana is already legalized.
While the bill would federally uphold state rulings in regards to marijuana, at this time it would not ensure legalization across the U.S. as marijuana is regulated very differently across state lines. More specifically, it would still prohibit the sale or distribution in states where it’s illegal under their current law.
Support Behind the Bill
While states are beginning to legalize marijuana in various capacities, Oregon in particular wants to protect its growing industry and all parties involved, which, said Wyden, was why he presented the reform.
“This three-step approach will spur job growth and boost our economy all while ensuring the industry is being held to a fair standard,” said Wyden in a press release.
“As more states follow Oregon’s leadership in legalization and regulating marijuana,” added Blumenauer, “too many people are trapped between federal and state laws. It’s not right, and it’s not fair. We need to change now – and this bill is the way to do it.”
It should be no surprise that Blumenauer is one of four founding members of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus introduced February 2017. He was joined by Republican congressmen Dana Rohrabacher of California and Don Young of Alaska, as well as Democrat U.S. Representative Jared Polis of Colorado.
Polis has also been pushing for marijuana reform. He introduced a bill in 2015 that was the basis for the “Path to Marijuana Reform” and also introduced a watered-down bill in March 2017 that would remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act and regulate it like alcohol. And, he’s not the only one. U.S. Representatives Tom Garrett, a Virginia Republican, and Tulsi Gabbard, a Hawaiian Democrat, also submitted legislation this year. “Ending Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2017” also requests to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substance Act, placing the authority in state hands.
While proposal bills are nothing new, increased bipartisan support for the federal government to place marijuana regulation in state control is gaining overwhelming support. Ultimately, federal approval will ensure safe regulation and consumption by those living in pro cannabis states. And this is good for everyone involved.